Automated Meter Reading (AMR) Systems Still Have Value
By Marty Mazzella, President, Ti-SALES
Water metering technology has come a long way from the early days of manual reading. Handwritten postcards and meter books (and the transcription errors that came with them!) made way for faster, more accurate touch pads, and then to even faster drive-by systems. (Both touch pad and drive-by systems are categorized as Automated Meter Reading or AMR Systems.)
Today, the water distribution industry is increasingly turning from AMR to AMI: Advanced Metering Infrastructure. AMI systems are characterized by fixed network hardware: most commonly, this means centrally located collectors (also called gateways) linking over radio frequency (RF) or an existing communication network (such as cellular or LoRaWAN) to all meters within their range. These systems come with a wide range of benefits, not the least being the time saved reading meters. The robust data they provide (hourly or daily readings instead of quarterly!) helps water utilities improve customer service, reduces non-revenue water (NRW), and aids conservation initiatives.
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement that new forms of technology bring – there are those in the water industry who will confidently declare that AMR is dead and that all new systems should be AMI or even Smart Water systems. So, do AMR systems still have their place in water utility operations? ABSOLUTELY!
But what about the data?
It’s true that AMR systems don’t provide the same level of water use detail as their AMI counterparts. However, AMR systems can provide robust data – our R900 endpoints store 96 days of hourly data. In addition, our smart E-CODER® meter registers detect unusual usage such as continuous flow or reverse flow, which can be used to notify customers of potential leaks. Our Neptune 360 data management platform provides cloud-based access to all collected data. A water utility could answer a customer bill dispute, for example, with full data up to the point of the last reading.
In addition to cloud-based access to all collected data, utility staff can easily access that information in the field with our R900 AMR data collectors, letting them address customer service issues and make service calls in a single visit.
In my 30+ year experience providing water meters and metering systems, I understand water utilities are not always in a position to adopt the latest technology, even if it is desired. Some water utilities might determine that the convenience and extra features AMI provides simply don’t match their current needs or budget. Luckily, AMR can provide a wealth of use data.
But what about future needs?
Most water metering systems have a 15- to 20-year life cycle, which can lead a utility to think that whatever metering solution they choose must meet not only the demands of today, but the demands of 10-20 years from now. An outdated solution could potentially leave that utility with stranded assets as their needs outgrow their existing system.
We agree that future demands are a very important consideration – that’s why our solutions, including our AMR systems, are designed for future compatibility to let you upgrade at your own pace. Our systems are designed to work with your existing assets and never leave you stranded. Even with the best information and planning, the future has a level of uncertainty.; Our systems’ backward and forward compatibility protects you from that uncertainty.
What’s more, our metering solutions are flexible – our AMR, AMI, and Smart Water components all work together to create a single integrated system. A utility using drive-by AMR can easily add a single or multiple fixed-network data collectors in their densely populated areas when they determine AMI data is needed or desired – and as their budget allows.
AMI systems are excellent, offering utilities robust data and freeing up their staff to focus on critical water issues. However, not all utilities need this high level of convenience and instantaneous data – at least not to meet today’s needs. For those utilities, a flexible, future-compatibly AMR system (like the Neptune R900 system) is a great solution that meets their needs today – and lets them upgrade at their own pace to meet future needs.
Marty Mazzella is the President and Owner of Ti-SALES, a leading distributor of water and wastewater supplies and the exclusive supplier for Neptune Technology Group’s line of water metering products across all of New England and New York. Neptune’s Tailored Water Metering Solutions help utilities to future-proof their investments with flexible, innovative solutions that work with your existing assets and never leave you stranded. For more information, contact Marty at 800.225.4616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.